Consumers have spent the past couple of decades shifting their spending habits online. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are social distancing from each other, and the web has become by default the place to shop.
Economic professor, Sanjeev Mehta commenting on the impacts of online business on the economy of a country said online business is like an ordinary business carried out on a virtual platform. “It tends to reduce transaction costs associated by eliminating intermediaries and unproductive value chains. It also helps to cut down the selling price and has a stimulatory effect on demand.”
However, he said the issue for online business is expansion. Online business is constrained by limited access to ICT technology. “With higher digital divide, its advantages will not disseminate equitably.”
“Online business brings more transparency and accountability to the system, consequently the scale of tax evasion and pilferage is lowered,” he added.
He said the COVID-19 has hastened the process of transition and due to low density of populations; online business will help to cut down the cost of business, especially when such businesses require higher fixed costs. “To maximize its potential and access to online business, the digital divide needs to be bridged.”
Additionally, he commented on smaller businesses, especially those dealing in perishable commodities, that the transport and storage infrastructure is not supportive. This may be a potential cause of limited outreach of online business for smaller players. The smaller players even lack financial and technical capability to operate which draws attention to concentration of monopoly power.
An online platform such as Bhutan Smart Shop which was established in 2017 is a platform where one can order products just at a click from your PC or your mobile phone and get deliveries instantly which helps to maintain social distancing.
Bhutan Smart Shop is now taking market facilities to the farmers to encourage them to take a keen interest in agricultural business. Besides distributing vegetables and fruits to vendors, Bhutan Smart Shop also sells them online.
Bhutan Smart Shop proprietor Sangay Needup said that during lockdown the supply of vegetables was hard for the business and the team had to recruit more staff for the easy delivery of vegetables in Thimphu.
“We were short of staff and vehicles to deliver within Thimphu due to excess demand and at that time, I recruited more staff and also hired more vehicles to meet the demand,” he said.
“We tried to meet the demand of the people during the lockdown and still the team is trying their best to deliver vegetables to the people,” he said adding, there were no issues regarding the payment of the staff and the business is still going on despite COVID-19 pandemic.
The proprietor said food and lodging were given freely to the team and everybody was giving their best to the business. Additionally, commenting on the future of online businesses, he said due to the COVID pandemic people are not willing to do go outside and due to this, the online businesses may increase as it ensures safety of the customers.
Further, he said customers are in doubt about the freshness of the products but Bhutan Smart Shop tries to provide quality vegetables and if a customer is not satisfied then they will be refunded. “We are always a call away from delivery.”
PandoraBiz founded by Sandeep Rai Chamling is a platform for four different users around the world: Guest user, client (Business Owners), an affiliate marketer and independent business manager where marketing agencies generate direct sales.
He said the current pandemic has hit everyone, “Even my team was affected because the income generation dropped but being an online platform business, I have customers from both within and outside Bhutan so we were able to generate some income.”
“Online business is useful especially during COVID pandemic as it ensures safety to everyone,” he said.
“Looking at the world today, online businesses have a bright future ahead,” he said adding that the only drawback of online business is that customers should research before doing any sort of payment as many customers can fall into a scam and lose their money.
“We are teaching youths how to progress oneself through online businesses,” he said.
As the current pandemic continues to affect different sectors, Sherza Ventures Limited is retaining all the employees and paying them on time despite the business being hugely impacted by the pandemic.
Commenting on the business being affected by the pandemic, Sherza Ventures Limited said due to COVID-19, there is a huge disruption in supply chain management where the supply of goods was not timely and transportation cost increased over the period which increased prices.
To overcome the losses, the team procured, promoted, and marketed local products to fill the gap of the non-availability of products. Sherza Ventures Limited said the world is moving towards a digital era and people look for ease in shopping. “Though Bhutan has not reached the peak yet; we have a huge challenge to educate people and make them shop online.”
Sonam Tashi from Thimphu